A Carrie Full-Text 
Electonic Library Book

02. Uses of Identity
by H.B. Paksoy

     1. Fans of professional "athletic" clubs tend to cluster together. In a particular case in the U.S., supporters of a specific baseball team collectively identify themselves as "the Tribe." They variously revel in and commiserate with the varying fortunes of their chosen stars. The individuals in this group state that they identify with all the elements of their adopted assembly, including symbols (flags, team colors, uniform, songs, chants of encouragement, jersey numbers of most valuable players). Their relationship with this grouping becomes a part of "who" and "what" they are. That is, in addition to what else they might be: parent, offspring, sibling, taxpayer, citizen of a given state, profession or political affiliation. This, despite the fact that each individual considering himself a full-fledged member of this "tribe" may hold values and opinions that may, in all possibility, clash with other members once all concerned are away from the stadium.

     2. During the earlier part of the Twentieth century, it was suggested in the popular press that what transpires on a playing field, when two professional teams meet, is but a representation of real war. This was especially applied to American football.

     3. Thus, one is reminded, inter alia, of single combat of early history, in which one individual from each of two opposing groups of people to settle their differences. The winning warrior would determine the fate of the losing side. This was also applied to two opposing teams in South America, in the case of the Maya rubber-ball game. [One is also reminded of the "Soccer War" that took place during the nineteen seventies in South America]. In all those cases, more than the simple score of a game was involved. The outcome was a matter of (literally) life and death. Hence the emotional attachment of spectator-fans to their team and the final result.

     4. Could this have been the attachment at the root of the phenomenon later termed "nationalism?" Which comes first: the identity or the allegiance?

     5. It can be argued that a winning team draws adherents, supporters, fans. But, there must have been a kernel of an identity among the originating mass, for a "team" to have been formed in the first place.

     6. In the depths of time, a formation of armed party could have been the necessity for the group/mass to survive the attacks of neighbors. Upon succeeding in repulsing armed visits from the surrounding "other," they might have decided to return the visit. Or, simply choose to explore their own limitations. Kingdoms are thus formed, occasionally expanding into empires when the conditions are ripe. All of which, necessarily or naturally clash with each other, since they all followed similar patterns of expansion.

     7. In the course of applying "military" power, the commander or the command structure may feel the need to engage in a bit of thinking. The opposition may have similar forces, not only in numbers and ability, but also in weaponry and intentions. Resort to "stratagems" might be called for, if the initial "team" is to carry the day.

     8. After conquering a near or far neighbor, the team will encounter the issues of governing an alien body of people. These new subjects might be speaking a different tongue, eat unknown foods, possess belief systems never before encountered. If the victorious team's intention is simple loot, they will take their booty and return to their native soil. But, if they decide to stay in the new land (they may have liked the climate, seaside, food or otherwise the general environment), they must cope with the newly encountered conditions. For example, Babur, in his memoirs complained about the climate, especially humidity, of India having a detrimental effect on his army's recurved bows.

     9. The first decision confronts the team is whether to assimilate into the people they conquered, or be assimilated by them.

     10. This is not always a conscious decision, although frequently decided in full cognizance.

     11. But, what determines the outcome? Not necessarily a further test of physical prowess, although that may take place down the road, given the developments based on all the other factors combined. These factors are mostly interactive, and involves relations, in their totality, with the conquered people.

     12. What determines the behavior and response of the conquered party that lost its independence and freedom? Do they want it back, or are they content to be assimilated? Do they have the means to rebel and physically challenge their conquerors, or had they suffered large casualties that they must wait a generation or two?

     13. Possibly, the invading team has, at least in the immediate period, overwhelming power. Will it always be so?

     14. What sustains the losing party, while they are biding their time for an uprising that will free them? Mind you, this waiting period can be rather extended; in some cases several centuries.

     15. Is it the yearning for days past, in independence (self determination), that keeps the former ways and thoughts alive? Re-articulated time and over through various media (songs, literature --written or oral-- physical expressions in art, practices of belief systems).

     16. The re-manifestations of established practices, a distinct combination of preferences begin to form a distinct set of visions of life for the future.

     17. Some losing teams begin to appeal to the authority and comfort of the supernatural, if they have no concrete established practices of their own; or if their belief system had encouraged such.

     18. A sub-group within the losing party may appeal to their own belief system for redemption. They may derive temporary comfort from the practice, but not necessarily relief. Unless that is, somehow the efforts expended to seek comfort are translated into action to procure independence; to pursue the actual goal.

     19. When used to bolster the pursuit of a goal, such as recapturing independence, the nature and structure of the belief systems has a direct influence on the ensuing events.

     20. Is the belief system native to the party practicing it? That is, was it created by that society? Or, was it borrowed or adopted from another?

     21. Does the belief system respond to demands made of it, in the minds of its adherents, to all contingencies, or only to a portion thereof?

     22. The "response" of the belief system to the emotional and spiritual needs of practitioners need to be flexible. Otherwise, a new system might replace the old.

     23. If the belief system was created by outsiders before importation into a society, it is almost certain that the liturgy and doctrine may have lost some of its original aesthetics and meaning.

     24. Imported ecumenical rites and liturgy will carry the values of another society, the one that originally created it. Those imported values are likely to be contradictory to the practices and beliefs of the importers. Even if the clash is not immediately outwardly visible or discernible, it will result in dissatisfaction among the adherents when the spiritual solace is sought but proves elusive.

     25. What causes a party to import a belief system? Because they themselves could not create one? Or the one in use at the time of importation proved more useful? Or, was the imported one was imposed by force of arms?

     26. At times, the imported belief system has allure, because it may "respond" to the immediate needs, by providing the backdrop or justification for extant practices. This is especially important when the belief system in use had brought too many obligations or impediments to the enjoyment of life.

     27. The "excitement" enjoyed while learning a new "secret" may contribute to the importation and acceptance of a new belief system.

     28. Belief systems also tend to flow from the conquered to the conquerors. It is almost invariably an act of conquest from within. The conquerors become the vanquished, when they begin to lose their own belief systems. This will aid in the assimilation of the conquering party into the vanquished. It may take place within one-to-three generations.

     29. The leadership of the conquering party will become aware of this shift, but they may not be in a strong enough position to prevent the changeover. This may be a result of their genuine desire to maintain amicable relations with the conquered. Or, the fact that the vanquished may be much more numerous.

     30. A portion of those conquering leadership may wish to preserve their "old" ways, value systems, preferring to press the vanquished to accept that position. Another portion of the conquerors are likely to side with the subjects. This will cause a bifurcation within the leadership of the rulers.

     31. The vanquished will reflect the bifurcation appearing among the ranks of their conquerors; one group eager to accept the value systems of their conquerors, while another will opt for their own that existed prior to their conquest.

     32. The bifurcation among the vanquished may be caused by a desire to garner economic gain. The difference is due to the pathways chosen. The question both sides may be asking is: which way is more beneficial?

     33. There is a choice made by the vanquished. Those adopting the value systems of their conquerors probably believe that the winning ways (such as their conquerors') will prevail.

     34. Those rejecting the value systems of the conqueror are clinging to their own ways, wishing to gain ascendancy by purifying their own leavening and themselves in any manner possible.

     35. It has also been observed that while the conqueror managed to impose its own policies on the vanquished, the belief systems of the vanquished conquered the conqueror.

     36. Transformation of societies can take place within a single generation; or successfully opposed over several centuries. The will of a given society facing those circumstances determines the outcome.

     37. If a polity decides, or reasonably guided, can and will effect an economic transformation in a matter of decades.

     38. The political or belief system transformations usually take much longer. Even if the pressure exerted from external sources is overwhelming.

     39. There is a price to pay for any type of transformation The. faster the change, the greater the bill amount.

     40. The motives of those endeavoring to transform a society need to be understood by those whose lives are going to be effected.

     41. The style and operational mode of those seeking to transform a society is also a matter to carefully consider. There are going to be great differences between dictators, reformers (of the Muckraker style, or other variants), and altruistic individuals.

     42. Faster economic transformations will cost more in value systems; That is, loss of traditional values.

     43. If the economic transformation is successful in one generation, than the grandparents may be able to pass on their own values onto the grandchildren, at least to a certain extent, effectively braking the total loss.

     44. The grandchildren may not always appreciate the value of the traditional value systems, especially during their adolescence. This has to do with what the grandchildren are perceiving to be preferable values around them.

     45. The "old order" (sometimes manifested by the older generation) usually thinks that the values of their society are being downgraded. They may not always be thinking in that direction erroneously. The environmental damage might be telling.

     46. After the "reform" movements begin, the "new values" will be hailed as "winning" by the side that advocate them. This could be a justification of current behavior by the leadership. 47. Eventually, some of the "old" values will seem to be desirable once again; in a reduced or "watered down" manner, in a semblance of a pendulum effect.

     48. In many instances, "reform" is nothing but a return to common sense, and the re-discovery of actual facts. Wyclif seems to have detected this effect.

     49. Truth is fragile, even if it can be found in its absolute state. Truth is colorless, odorless and hence rather easy to overlook. It does no harm in itself, nor does it threaten to. Therein lies a reason for its fragility. Truth can be polluted exceedingly easily, almost effortlessly. Just an addition of color, a whiff of fragrance will accomplish the erosion. Who, after all, can detect the downgrading, but those who are acquainted with truth in its absolute state.

     50. If truth is so very transparent, how does one become adept at recognizing its essence through the heavy foliage engulfing it?

     51. The art of tainting the truth can be called propaganda, or, employing a new euphemism, public relations. It is not too difficult to hide the truth under a heap of semantics and lexicon. Any such effort must be investigated to the bone.

     52. Truth and identity share many attributes. Today, there are a number of polities whose undocumented lore state that as an "ethnogenesis" they have been in continuous existence for ten thousand years or more. Some in those polities fervently believe in that lore. To them, it is the "truth." To those who seek material evidence, it is myth. The reconciliation of the two may never be possible.

     53. Identities are self leavening. They are passed on from one generation to the next.

     54. As the leavened identities are passed on, they are either developed further, or impurities (with respect to the origins) are introduced into them.

     55. In most cases, identity is equal to culture.

     56. It has been claimed that contacts between cultures yield a new fusion, resulting in a new one.

     57. The term culture in use today generally is derived from the Roman use. It was first applied to agriculture, as in cultivating the fields. By extension, it came to mean development of faculties, mind.

     58. Cheese and wine have their own, specific cultures. If wine culture (instead of cheese) is introduced into the cheese cauldron at the time of the formation (leavening), the resulting entity can neither be eaten, nor could be drunk. At least, not with the pleasure that accompanies the original entity. [This does not refer to a specific port cheese; where the wine is added after the cheese is leavened, for flavoring purposes]

     59. Cheese and wine can be ingested by humans simultaneously. This is because their tastes complement each other so well, and not because their leavening agents have been exchanged at the time of their formations.

     60. Both the wine and the cheese cultures, the essential leavening agents, may be purified or developed further. That is why there are so many hundreds of cheese varieties; not to mention the styles and types of wines.

     61. Like others (i.e. beer, yoghurt, bread) the origins of cheese and wine cultures are not known today. At least, to the present technology. Human cultures have a similar mist enveloping them.

     62. Whatever their origins, the human cultures can also be developed, made more distinct. They may even be transformed. Whether this is beneficial or detrimental depends on their relations with others and the discernible outcomes.

     63. The relations among cultures always formed civilizations. Some civilizations are extinct, others are continuing to flourish.

     64. The term civilization also entered into usage from Roman precedent. Originally it pertained to the citizens, their private rights, hence relating to the body of citizens or commonwealth; as distinct from soldiery, proper public or social order under rule of law, human society.

     65. It is difficult to speak of a particular civilization before considering individual cultures contributing to that civilization.

     66. A given community will have a specific identity. That identity will encompass individuals living within. As each individual constituting that community has an identity, the community identity will become a mosaic of its components.

     67. The community mosaic identity is quite different from the mosaic identity born of duress.

Return to: Identities: How Governed, Who Pays? Index.